When I started blogging almost 5 years ago, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about what it takes to create and maintain a blog. I had been fortunate enough to publish several books, and for 13 years, I had a successful magazine column called Kindred Spirits. Blogging just seemed like a natural and easy (so I thought) way to share what I wanted to write about. No editors. No rules. Just me and my blog. I was wrong about so many things (especially the easy part). Blogging can be fun and rewarding, but it’s also work. Any job is easier if you know what to expect. If you are new to the blogging world or if you are thinking about starting a blog, here are some things I wish someone had told me when I started.
Image: Shawn Campbell via Flickr
This was one of my first mistakes. I thought that if I could write, I could blog. That’s sort of true and sort of not. Good writing is essential and will always be a contributing factor to a successful blog, but it’s only part of the total package. One of the best ways to understand what I’m talking about it is to look at some of the most successful blogs. Here are two of my personal favorites.
The first is 5minutesformom.com, which belongs to Julia and Susan, twin sisters from Canada, who have created a wonderful mommy blog. It’s fun, informative, a quick read, but chock full of parenting advice.
The other is The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond is my hero, and I like her site so much that when it came time for NanaHood to get a facelift, her site is the one I wanted mine modeled after. I would describe her site as elegant but homey. She has tons of recipes and lots of great-looking photographs.
Take a few minutes and visit these two blogs. While you are there, you’ll see that there is a whole lot more going on than just informational articles. And while I didn’t list my own site as one of the most successful blogs, I do have to give myself, Char (my tech friend) and MWI, Inc. a pat on the back. We are working hard and slowly NanaHood is growing from good to great.
Koshy Koshy via Flickr
BlogHer is a "platform for sharing great voices, stories and ideas. If you’re a creator, we invite you to share your voice with our community."
Remember I said that one of the reasons I found blogging appealing is that I could write about whatever I wanted to? Well, as it turns out, that’s not a good thing. You see my brain leaps, hops and skips from one topic, subject, cause, emotion to the next. As a result, the first years of NanaHood were a hodgepodge of whatever happened to be hopping and leaping around in my brain.
Great blogs may have a variety of topics, but they have one primary focus and they never, ever get away from it. For instance, NanaHood was recently updated by MWI, Inc. and one of the things they suggested was narrow down my categories. Which was a nice way of saying, “Get over your ADHD and stay focused!” We narrowed it down, and now you’ll see fewer category choices and all of them are connected to my top priority... grandparenting.
Image: GGVic via Flickr
If you visit mommy blogs, you're probably a better mom for it. If you visit financial blogs you probably will invest your money more wisely or learn how to make your resources go further. If you follow pet blogs, you will know more about taking care of your pet. If the blogs you visit don’t help you do those things, more than likely than not, you won’t continue to visit them.
Good writing and staying focused isn’t enough. A great blog makes a difference in the lives of the people who read them. Whether that is because it gives them pertinent information that empowers them, or because it makes them feel like a member of a very important club (or both), great blogs keeps readers coming back because the reader gains something by doing so.
Image: Smelly13cat via Flickr
When I started blogging, I was just so happy to see my blog’s name and mine beneath it that I wasn’t too worried about the overall appearance. Now I know better. There are thousands, millions, zillions (well, maybe not that many... yet) of blogs out there, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to see that the ones that get noticed the most are often the ones that look the best.
Here are some commonalities among great blogs.
- They have beautiful photographs. They don’t use blurry pictures… ever.
- They use the same font (or fonts) consistently.
- They are well-organized.
One of the best ways I know to show you how a blog is designed is to share with you how NanaHood.com was updated. You can read about the different stages of the process in a great article about how MWI, Inc. put my new look together.
Image: Becosky via Flickr
When I started blogging, I didn’t expect NanaHood to become an overnight sensation, but I did expect it to grow faster than it has. One reason for my slow growth is my lack of understanding of SEO and how Google and search engines work. I’m extremely hard-headed, so I kept telling myself that if I just wrote better, published more often, and learned about social media I would eventually succeed. All those things are important, but no matter how often I publish and how great I write, if readers can’t find me it simply doesn’t matter.
There are many bloggers who figure out these things on their own, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I needed help. Besides redesigning my site, MWI, Inc. is helping with SEO. Bless their hearts, they have their work cut out explaining it to me. But they are patient, and I am determined. Patience and determination can turn a good blog into a great one.
NanaHood.com is a work in progress… but then again, so am I!
Now tell me about your blog. What’s something you wish you had known when you started blogging?
Teresa Bell Kindred www.nanahood.com
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